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Crift v. Kelley

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Pine Bluff Division

September 12, 2019

AARON CRIFT PETITIONER
v.
WENDY KELLEY, Director of the Arkansas Department of Correction RESPONDENT

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

         INSTRUCTIONS

         The following recommended disposition has been sent to United States District Judge James M. Moody Jr. You may file written objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the factual and/or legal basis for your objection; and (2) be received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days of this Recommendation. By not objecting, you may waive the right to appeal questions of fact.

         DISPOSITION

         Aaron Crift (“Crift”) seeks a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2254. Crift is currently in the custody of the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC) after a Jefferson County jury convicted him of first-degree murder in February 2017. He was sentenced as an habitual offender to 65 years' imprisonment. Crift's direct appeal was denied by the Arkansas Court of Appeals on January 24, 2018. Crift v. State, 2018 Ark.App. 15. The sole argument raised on direct appeal was trial court error in declining to instruct the jury on manslaughter as a lesser-included offense of capital murder and first-degree murder. Crift did not seek discretionary review by the Arkansas Supreme Court, and the Arkansas Court of Appeals' mandate issued on February 13, 2018.

         On April 18, 2019, Crift filed his federal habeas corpus petition, alleging the following claims for relief:

1. His conviction was not supported by sufficient evidence;
2. His Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself was violated; and
3. He was denied his right to testify against witness Arthur Paylor, who Crift alleges committed the crime.

         Respondent Wendy Kelley (“Kelley”) contends that the statute of limitations bars consideration of these claims, and she asserts that all claims are also procedurally barred due to Crift's failure to adequately raise them in state court. By Order dated July 29, Crift was notified of his opportunity to address Kelley's arguments, and he has responded. Docket entry no. 13. The Court will initially consider if Crift's petition is timely filed.

         Calculation of the limitations period and statutory tolling.

         Section 101 of 28 U.S.C. 2244 (as amended) imposes a one year period of limitation on petitions for writ of habeas corpus:

(1) A 1-year period of limitation shall apply to an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court. The limitation period shall run from the latest of--
(A) the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review;
(B) the date on which the impediment to filing an application created by State action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the applicant was ...

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